Matthew Steeples gives his view on Julian Assange’s having been granted asylum by Ecuador
I spent much of the day yesterday watching the Occupy News Network live video stream from outside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.
For those who don’t know it, the Occupy News Network is the news source of the Occupy protestors who began “occupying” parks, financial districts and public squares throughout the world from 15th October 2011. With an aim of keeping their audience “abreast of developments in the global revolution,” the channel focuses on “expos[ing] police brutality and abuse of the law.” I was fascinated, amused and equally horrified by what I saw and I quickly became engrossed.
With a man named Pedro both behind the camera and conducting interviews, viewers of the live stream were exposed to the thoughts of the Assange fanatics stood outside the building in Knightsbridge where he is holed up. Here, in the lead up to the statement that Julian Assange would be granted asylum by Ecuador, the audience heard interviews with supporters, police and bystanders. Most, to be honest, talked utter junk and illustrated the paranoia and stupidity of their positions.
The first I saw compared the prospect of police storming the embassy to the “invasion of Iraq” before laughing as he announced that hackers had crashed the Met Police website. “We should give them [the hackers] an Olympic medal,” he added.
The next, a young girl of no more than 20, described my least favourite politician, Theresa May, as “The Witch of Downing Street” and then announced that the police “like to scare young girls… They like to give you a good shove.” A smartly dressed American man spoke of his Orwellian terror when he stated:
“I worry about my visa status. I am afraid of what might happen to me in both Britain and the USA. I might lose my job for being here. We’re starting to become worse than Russia.”
The first moment of amusement came when a pizza delivery man arrived. He was filmed being turned away by the police at the door of the embassy. Subsequently, he came on camera and was asked who the pizza had been meant for. “Someone called Julian,” he answered. “Don’t you know who he is?” Pedro asked. “No,” he answered in bemusement before wandering off. Taxis and another pizza delivery for “Julian” followed and all these innocent workers left rightly angry at the prank that one of the protestors was trying to use as a way to aggravate the police. The police showed sense and correctly did not react.
The next arrived when Pedro decided to interview a pair of bystanders from Yorkshire. He asked: “Is that near the sea?” before seeking their view on Mr Assange’s “plight.” They answered simply: “Who is he? Sounds like a load of old nonsense to us.” They didn’t have a clue who the Wikileaks founder even was and plainly had no interest in his case.
Commentary continued in the same vein and as the police repeatedly asked the film crew to step away from the highway they were obstructing, several arrests occurred. These and the police’s refusal to engage with them set a rather loud Brummie woman off into a gargantuan rant where she announced: “We should throw rocks at them when they [the police] storm the embassy.” Others, mostly masked, described President Obama and even their formerly beloved Guardian as “terrorists.” Assange, himself, was termed a “radical Ron Paul.” If these people are representative of Assange’s supporters, the likes of Sarah Saunders, Vaughn Smith and Jemima Khan would do well to distance themselves from him and this ragbag of nutjobs.
I pass the Ecuadorian Embassy several times each week and during Assange’s occupation, on many days there have been more police than supporters present. Sometimes there wasn’t even one person outside. This was indicative of the lack of support, but yesterday, on an occasion when a major announcement about their flawed superhero was due, the Occupy News Network were reduced to desperately stating:
“We need more numbers here. We really need some more people down here. We’re in Knightsbridge. We’re just near the Harrods tube exit. If you are in London, come now. We need you now.”
As the 1pm announcement approached, from what I observed, there were still more police and bystanders than supporters present.
When the announcement came that asylum had indeed been granted, I decided enough was enough and turned the Occupy News Network off. I later listened to William Hague’s wise statement about the situation and found myself in total agreement:
“We will not allow Mr Assange safe passage out of the UK… We must carry out our obligation to extradite him to Sweden… This asylum is groundless as he is avoiding the legal processes of Sweden and Britain… This is is not about Wikileaks of the United States of America.”
Frankly, Julian Assange belongs in the asylum rather than being deserving of being granted such. Assange breached his bail and is, under Section 7 of the Bail Act 1976, eligible for arrest for that if nothing else. If he is subsequently sent to Sweden and charged, he should let justice take its course. He ought to realise that his innocence or guilt will be decided by the courts of a perfectly civilised liberal nation and that he has as fair a chance as the next man.
Mr Assange: you’ve made your point and you are not, as one of your supporters suggested, a “freedom fighter.” You are, instead, just a blabbing bail jumper who stands accused of rape. You have cost British taxpayers and your very own supporters hundreds of thousands of pounds and Ecuador will lose their standing in the world by harbouring you. To be totally honest, though, you should realise that the majority of us are bored of you and your “I’m above the law” attitude.
Please, Mr Assange, end this tedious charade, do the decent thing, proudly walk out of the front door of the Ecuadorian Embassy and hand yourself in. If you truly are an innocent man, we’ll all respect you a hell of a lot more.